Nellis commander completes 6-show run on 'Jeopardy!'

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Michael Charles
  • 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
The set wasn't the same as he remembered from watching the show in its inaugural season more than 25 years ago. The chalkboard scheme has been replaced by liquid crystal display screens; the money at stake has doubled; and contestants are no longer limited to just five wins.

From the first day Col. Dave Belote walked onto the set of "Jeopardy!" for familiarization to six shows and $134,801 later, he described the experience as almost surreal.

"If I was writing a script of my life, this part of the movie would be happening in a dream," said the 99th Air Base Wing commander who represented the Air Force on one of the world's most famous game shows Dec. 2 through 9.

Colonel Belote has become accustomed to being in uncertain situations. He was the face of Nellis Air Force Base during an appearance on the Bravo Television Network show "Top Chef: Las Vegas" and provided President Barack Obama a personal tour of the Nellis AFB solar photovoltaic array field earlier this year. But, despite the years of training and dealing with individuals more influential than any game show host will ever be, nothing quite prepared him to be on the big blue stage when the lights came up for the announcement of those iconic words ... "This is Jeopardy!"

With five wins, Colonel Belote showed the aptitude of Air Force commanders by beating some of the nation's smartest lawyers, college professors and doctors in dramatic fashion. Whether it was the $39,999 he earned on his first day, to the dramatic come from behind $1 victory in final "Jeopardy!" during his second appearance, the native of Virginia Beach, Va., continued to dominate the field in numerous categories such as, "Ends in 'itz,'" "National anthems," and "Women celebrities."

On the sixth game, which aired Dec. 9, Colonel Belote was in a game in which he and Jove Graham of Lewisburg, Pa., exchanged leads repeatedly in the last few questions. Both answered correctly on the final "Jeopardy!" question, but the colonel's winning streak had come to an end.

"It's not every day that a contestant ends final "Jeopardy!" with $25,999 and loses," Colonel Belote said. "I would have rather been beaten in a great match and gone down swinging than to have been blown out. All in all, I was extremely grateful to be able to compete and represent Nellis and the many current and former Airmen in the Air Force."

Colonel Belote was able to share his "Jeopardy!" experience with millions watching around the globe, but more meaningful was sharing the spotlight with just one -- his 21-year-old autistic son Drew, who flew from Virginia to Los Angeles to cheer on his father during his fifth and sixth games of "Jeopardy!" After the final taping, the producers brought Drew, who loves game shows, on stage to meet the show's well-known host. The colonel couldn't hold back the tears as Drew took the host's hand and whispered, "It's Alex Trebek. I'm inside 'Jeopardy!'"

"My moment of glory might be over, but I walked away with my head held high for being able to represent Nellis and the U.S. Air Force to the countries who air this show around the world," Colonel Belote said. "I've heard from active and retired military who loved seeing the uniform on 'America's favorite game show.' What a privilege to touch veterans from Korea and Vietnam onward while living out a dream."

But, Colonel Belote's "Jeopardy!" dream may not be over. His earnings currently sit as the 12th highest total of all-time in the show's history. Currently, the colonel is No. 1 in earnings this season and, with his five consecutive wins, he qualifies to return for the end-of-season "Jeopardy!" Tournament of Champions. The competition pits the season's top 13 earners and two college champions against each other to see who will win $250,000 and be crowned the champion for the entire season.

With his recent performance, will "Who is Col. Dave Belote?" be the answer? Nobody knows, but one thing is for sure: the dream sequence in the script for the movie of the colonel's life wins an Oscar for drama, suspense and best performance by an Airman participating in surreal experience.